The Trivia Man

The Trivia Man, by Deborah O’Brien

Random House Australia (2015), Paperback, 256 pages


A sweet little story, with two of the most endearing misfits you’ll ever find between the pages of a novel. Kevin and Maggie are two pieces of middle-aged driftwood afloat in the sea of modern life. Kevin is an anal-retentive  forensic accountant obsessed with facts and statistics, who lives in a very neat, very plain flat. He is spectacularly unsuccessful at maintaining human relationships, even though he has a type of Alvin Purple vibe where attractive women try to seduce him, but he wants none of it, or thinks he doesn’t.  Maggie is a teacher of Latin, who has spent the past twenty years holding a torch for a guy who treats her as a convenience stop between other romances. The two come together in a weekly trivia competition which forms the structure of the book. From the beginning the reader assumes they will eventually end up together, but the characters repeatedly dismiss the possibility while they pursue other avenues and the author teasingly leaves the reader with only the faintest glimmering that they might just make it.  The book never reaches any startlingly heights or offers great insights into the human condition, but what it does do is provide entertaining reading with interesting characters, a neat structure organized around the weekly trivia competition, and for trivia buffs like myself, tantalizing questions as part of the competition being a bonus. This book did hit a nerve with me, as I am a obsessive trivia fanatic like Kevin, although I like to think a bit more socially adaptive, but it is a slightly unnerving expereince to see a character with whom you can identify so strongly and wonder “Is this how people see me?” Loved the book though.


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